This deck is a unique blend of medieval artistic styles with modern sensibilities. Although following the Rider-Waite-Smith patterns, it features new symbolism and interpretations for the Minor Arcana that can wonderfully excite you. The Medieval Tarot is ideal for people working Renaissance fairs if the organizers aren’t too demanding in areas of authenticity. The difference in the symbolism will draw people to Ren Fair readers who use this deck.
Although there is no evidence that the Tarot goes back to ancient Egypt, Atlantis, or some other source from thousands of years ago (although aspects of the cards’ symbolism may find inspiration from earlier times), the Tarot certainly can be traced back several hundred years featuring art that was common among medieval artists.
It is therefore fitting that, on occasion, a new Tarot deck should appear that hearkens back to that earlier style. Such a deck is the Medieval Tarot. The artwork features the curious two-dimensionality (curious to our modern, 3D-familiar perspective) that was common to the art of the period when many artists had not figured out how to accurately show three dimensional space on a flat surface.
There is great detail on some things considered important. Many of the backgrounds are elegantly repeated patterns. There is one spread described in the Little White Booklet (LWB). It’s a seven-card spread associated with positions on the hand similar to the "Guidonian Hand" used in medieval music training. As any palmist can tell you, the positions on the hand have certain astrological/metaphysical associations. The linking of the symbolic meaning of the card with a position on the hand allows for a surprisingly in-depth reading.
The period of this deck was before printed material was widely available. Therefore, in order to learn something, it had to be memorized. People were able to memorize amazingly long works. There was a name for the techniques involved in this skill, the Ars Memorandi, part of which involved the use of well-known symbols or images with meaning. This Tarot is also influenced by that system, using the images to share spiritual and philosophical truths and values. In this sense, this deck is a true "wordless book," a concept that hearkens back to the Tarot’s mythic beginning as a way of wordlessly sharing wisdom among people who spoke differing languages.
The images of the earliest Tarot decks that survive have a pictorial Major Arcana and a non-pictorial set of Minor Arcana cards. It wasn’t until the last century that Waite and Smith put symbolic images on all the cards. The Medieval Tarot mixes its metaphors by having symbolic images on all the cards. The Majors have images than anyone familiar with the RWS deck will easily recognize, although the numbers of the Strength and Justice cards are reversed, following the pre-RWS pattern. The Minors have some similarities to the RWS, but it’s more appropriate to say that the RWS concepts have influenced this deck—this isn’t simply a RWS clone with a different artistic style. The interpretations given in the LWB matches the symbols on these cards.
This deck is good for doing general readings of all sorts. It would be especially useful for people giving readings at renaissance fairs (if the organizers aren’t too strict) and as a potential alternate for your regular deck(s). Its striking art also makes this a must for collectors—there are few decks that have the imagery of the "olde" while using the RWS pattern that is relatively new (just 100 years old).
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